Wednesday, September 03, 2014

STEVENS: Another fine, fine school in Ottawa

By MARGE STEVENS, Positives in Education | 5/8/2013

Sometimes a positive inspiration is right in front of me.  

Alan Cunningham, Eugene Field music teacher, showcases his classes three times a year. The kindergarten and first-grade music program traditionally is a musical written by Cunningham using a library book for the students’ grade level. This year, Cunningham decided to use “A Fine, Fine School,” written by Sharon Creech with pictures by Harry Bliss. The district is so blessed to have Cunningham’s ability to write songs and a script from a book, making his own adapted musical for the students. He started doing this years ago when the offerings for young children were not-so interesting and not near the fun his kids needed. Such musicals also were very costly.

Sometimes a positive inspiration is right in front of me.  

Alan Cunningham, Eugene Field music teacher, showcases his classes three times a year. The kindergarten and first-grade music program traditionally is a musical written by Cunningham using a library book for the students’ grade level. This year, Cunningham decided to use “A Fine, Fine School,” written by Sharon Creech with pictures by Harry Bliss. The district is so blessed to have Cunningham’s ability to write songs and a script from a book, making his own adapted musical for the students. He started doing this years ago when the offerings for young children were not-so interesting and not near the fun his kids needed. Such musicals also were very costly.

I was asked to help read for the production, since June Erisman, who usually helps, was scheduled for surgery and could not participate. I was honored to be to take part. I spent time with the students, who were so much fun. They took their parts very seriously and did a great job.  

As soon as the students sang the first song in the program rehearsal, I knew my the topic for my next “Positives in Education” column. I watched Cunningham handle at least 100 students by getting them quiet and on task by playing the mirror game. When Cunningham raised his hand and moved it to left or right up and down, the students all followed without a peep. He then gave direction to the cast of many students.

I saw teacher after teacher come in and help with placing children on stage, teaching them what they needed to say. These teachers should have been having planning time, but they gave it up so the show could go on. That itself is a sign of a fine, fine school.

Stars of the show came in ill, temperatures were taken, a mint given and they were all well and the show went on. Never missed a beat. That too is a sign of a fine, fine school.

I saw teachers quietly encouraging students to speak up, get a special look on their face, calm a disciplinarian action, silence down the troops and never raise their voices — and always with a smile on their faces. I saw teachers bring their students in early, so they could see their siblings’ program because they were going to be gone the next day. They knew it was important to their siblings. This is a fine, fine school.

I saw students do their very best to give a great singing performance so their parents would be proud. I saw students clap and praise good singing and good acting of their peers. This is a fine, fine school.

I was so proud Ottawa has teachers and students who just go about a regular day, giving their best and indicating they have had a well-rounded education.

Thank you all for sharing this fine, fine school with me and the rest of the standing room-only audience.

Thank you, parents, for supporting your children in such an enthusiastic way.

Marge Stevens is an Ottawa school board member.

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